Michael Browne, a Briton and Christian free-lance journalist, dispatched this report from Hong Kong after a trip last month to Canton, southern provincial capital of Communist China:

“Chairman Mao is the red sun in our hearts; his thoughts shed light all over the world.” Surrounded by a group of several hundred Red Guards in Canton in mid-January, I listened to enthusiastic Chinese young people testify to their faith in Mao Tse-tung.

In a first-hand appraisal of life behind the Bamboo Curtain, I was staggered by the intensity of the present cultural revolution and the dynamic forces being generated by the unbounded faith of China’s revolutionary youth.

This high tide of revolutionary fervor is focused in a person. Perhaps no other figure in history has enjoyed, in his own lifetime, the devotion and admiration of so vast a multitude as has Chairman Mao. At this time over 700 million people pay lip service, at least, to the man they call “our great leader, teacher, supreme commander, and helmsman.” Slogans praising Mao and the “correct” Communist Party of China appear everywhere.

This is the climate that has spawned the now world-famous Red Guards. Nothing in past or current Western religious writing or thought had prepared me for what I experienced among these young people in China last month.

Far from being repressed, sullen, or gloomy, China’s youth are vitally alive. “We live to serve the people,” a young Red Guard said. An estimated 30 million Red Guards alone, besides other revolutionary youth, carry this gospel according to Mao among the masses.

From all corners of the country these militant teen-agers are on the move with unsurpassed excitement and revolutionary enthusiasm. In the current political power struggle waged as a “cultural revolution,” the Party hierarchy in Peking has succeeded in molding “youth for Mao” into a monolithic unity that seems certain—providing the present Mao-Lin axis remains intact—to prolong the Mao line for at least another generation.

The faith of these young revolutionaries in Chairman Mao is impressive. There is no doubt they adore this Marxist messiah. Here are the first such large-scale results of atheistic materialism ever seen in a living generation, and the results are frightening.

What I saw challenges Christianity to the very hilt.

A significant proportion of China’s 200 million youth are wholly given to learning the sayings and applying the “thoughts” of their national leader. Their Bible is a red-covered book the same size as a pocket Testament, entitled Quotations from Mao Tse-tung. Daily they gather in groups all over the country to read, memorize, and preach from this little red book. They underline passages and mark it in exactly the same way a Christian does his Bible.

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While in Red China I had complete liberty to go where I desired and talk to anyone. I wandered freely among the estimated one million Red Guards thronging Canton.

“We will never become hot-house flowers,” a Red Guard representative explained. “We want to be steeled and tempered in the storms of the world by traveling on foot. We want to trace the route of the Long March ourselves. We are prepared to taste the bitterness of the hardships of the revolution ourselves!” This dedication is worked out at grass-roots level in practical ways. They vie with one another to do good things. They cheerfully carry reeking night soil and help wash city streets three times daily.

Thriving on austerity rations supplied at government-sponsored reception centers (unpolished rice, dog and cat meat, and vegetables), contingents of Red Guards make their way to Peking, eager to see Mao. They travel in regional groups of from two to fifty, with an occasional loner, and publicize Mao-thought every step of the way.

These militant mini-Maos are not expected to resume normal studies until September. All middle schools and universities are at present closed. Primary and infant schools are open only half-days, and their curriculum is based exclusively on study of Mao’s “thoughts.” Twelve- to fourteen-year-olds did not know where Australia was and had never heard of New Zealand. They thought England was near America. Asked who created the world, they replied, “The people created the world.”

In question-and-answer sessions spread over several nights, young Red Guards were eager to express themselves on many topics. Samples:

• Why do you need a cultural revolution? “To destroy the four ‘olds’: old culture, customs, habits, and ideas.”

• Why do no girls in China wear dresses or use cosmetics? “We are not interested in pretty clothes; we are revolutionaries. If we wore cosmetics it would mean we were parasites living in leisure. Chairman Mao said we should wear uniforms, like him, and serve the people.”

• Are you allowed to have boy friends and girl friends? “We are pledged to Chairman Mao. He says girls may marry at 25 and boys at 30.”

• Have any of you ever been to church? “No. We are Marxist-Leninists and do not believe in God. There is no God. We are all atheists.”

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• Have you ever heard anything about Jesus? “We do not know him. Never heard of him.” (Some knew the name only as having a remote religious connection.)

• Who created the universe? “Chairman Mao and the ‘thoughts’ of Chairman Mao!”

• What religious freedom, if any, do you have? “We have the right to believe, and we have the right to oppose religion. Some old people over 50 still believe, but most of them have changed their ideas.”

• Are there any churches in Canton? “None. They were finally destroyed last summer by the Red Guards who covered them with quotations from Mao Tse-tung.”

To this young generation of committed Communists, Christmas has no meaning. For the first time since the revolution, no churches were open at Christmas in Canton. Similar conditions were reported from other main centers in China, including Peking and Shanghai.

Press releases report all churches were liquidated last August. Religious relics have been removed from all former churches. Many spires and belfries have been torn down. Red Guards use the buildings mostly as assembly halls. The only recognizable church building in Canton today is the Red Star-crowned, twin-spired Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, boarded, empty, and plastered with Mao slogans.

The paranoiac adulation afforded Mao by the emerging generation can be understood only in religious terms. Mao is god, the Party is the church, and these young Red Guards are the evangelists. Quotations stands as the inspired writing, and the glory of world revolution and world Communism is heaven. Propaganda methods closely resemble the practices of Christian missions—street meetings, cottage services, tract distribution, and testimonies.

The knell that augurs the final great “anti-religion” is already sounding in this Oriental Orwellian state.


T. Christie Innes, pastor of Pittsburgh’s Eastminster Presbyterian Church, has been appointed research associate with CHRISTIANITY TODAY to complete research on Calvin begun by the late J. Marcellus Kik, who was at one time associate editor of the magazine. A native Scot, Innes has been active in church affairs and scholarship in Britain, Canada, and the United States.

Arthur M. Climenhaga has resigned as executive director of the National Association of Evangelicals following nomination to an administrative bishopric in his Brethren in Christ Church.

W. Wayne Dehoney, widely traveled immediate past-president of the Southern Baptist Convention, this month moves from Jackson, Tennessee, to the 5,200-member Walnut Street Church in Louisville.

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Monsignor Edward T. O’Meara, pastor of St. Louis Cathedral, will replace Bishop Fulton J. Sheen as national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. Sheen, noted for his TV series, now heads the Roman Catholic diocese of Rochester, New York.

Dr. Elmer W. Engstrom, chief executive officer of the Radio Corporation of America and noted evangelical layman, has won the William Proctor Prize of the Scientific Research Society.

The Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg appointed the Rev. Albrecht Schonherr as “administrator of the bishop’s office” to head ecclesiastical affairs in the Communist sector. His selection enables the church to maintain a tenuous unity across the Berlin Wall.

Alan Redpath, former pastor of Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church, is leaving his pastorate of Charlotte Chapel, Edinburgh, Scotland, for health reasons.


Faith Baptist Church in Nha Trang, Viet Nam, planned to baptize seven converts in the ocean as usual, but high winds and waves made it hazardous. The substitute baptistry was a large, round, inflatable military life raft, commandeered for the purpose by a chaplain.

Methodists in Malaysia and Singapore voted by large majorities to ask the 1968 General Conference of The Methodist Church for autonomy like that already granted in Indonesia and Burma.

The Rev. D. P. McGeachy of Nashville proposed in Presbyterian Survey that a church help its minister buy his own home, rather than making him live in a church-owned parsonage.

Pope Paul told a religious education meeting that sacrifices and extra effort are needed because Catholic schools are “faced, as never before, with the most discouraging obstacles.”

Community leaders in Neshoba County, Mississippi, have appealed for help in rebuilding a Mennonite church in Preston that was dynamited December 23 while its young people were out Christmas caroling. The church, which serves mainly Choctaw Indians, had been demolished by bombings in November, 1964, and February, 1966.

Religion In A Test-Tube

The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. Sounds like something they would dream up in Moscow, but this fast-growing, doctorate-studded group is pure Americana, and about half its 1,600 members are clergymen.

Whether professional religionists or professional social scientists (religious and otherwise) the members (largely Easterners) believe religious behavior and institutions are as fair game for empirical study as cabbages and kings. The idea is to find out “what are the social mechanisms by which this whole thing works, and the cultural patterns which define it,” explained bearded, congenial Executive Secretary Samuel Z. Klausner, 43, in his Washington, D. C., office. “It has little to do with theology per se.”

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The key person in getting the society started in 1948 was Walter H. Clark, professor of the psychology of religion at Andover Newton, who of late is more interested in LSD trips. The society consisted of only a few hundred scholars until 1960, when it founded the quarterly Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. The journal now has 2,400 subscribers. In 1964, Klausner became the first staff member, and he now handles a $30,000 annual budget. He had taught previously at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary. The society has had full-day programs in conjunction with the last two conventions of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and it also holds an annual meeting of its own.

The society is still growing. Among the hundreds of new members admitted during 1966 were such diverse figures as General Secretary R. H. Edwin Espy of the National Council of Churches, retired Bishop James A. Pike of the Episcopal Church, Dean Terrelle Crum of evangelically oriented Barrington (Rhode Island) College, and William H. Davis, executive secretary of the Association for the Protection of Atheists. Since Vatican II, a lot of Roman Catholic priests have been joining.

Klausner works with the society only part-time. The rest of his effort goes into projects with the Bureau of Social Science Research, a private organization that contracts to do research projects. One of Klausner’s recent jobs was an Air Force study of control of behavior under stress among “skydiver” parachutists.

Keeping an eye out for the religious aspects, Klausner developed from this study a thirty-four-page paper on “Worship and the Dangerous Life: A Study of Church Attendance Among Sport Parachutists.” A sample finding: “Individuals go to church when its attitude or doctrine is consonant with theirs. It is almost as if these individuals were theologically aware. This relation seems to hold for every level of experience in skydiving.”

Why are so many more social scientists writing about the external aspects of religion? Klausner thinks the hundreds of books and articles are a natural product of our pluralistic society, which “has led people to see their own religious traditions in the light of other religious traditions, and to step out for an objective look. There is a questioning of culture, and questioning of religious culture is part of it. Not in the sense of doubting, which is a personal value issue.”

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Religious scientists tend to make religion sound as if it were no more than what they observe. At the first major international meeting of religious sociologists in 1962, Gerhard Lenski, then of the University of Michigan, warned, “We need to remember that the sociology of religion is only a partial view of religion.”

On an empirical basis, Klausner happens to be religious. He attends his Conservative Jewish synagogue three times a week and objects to the efforts of Reform Judaism to soft-pedal references to resurrection and the coming redeemer.

But he doesn’t believe Bible history happened “in a literal sense.” He likes the “old-fashioned words” because they have “an important history and keep us in touch with the roots.”

When he uses the term “God” in prayer before meals, he says, he thinks not of a person but of the “shared-ness of human production of food” and affirms “the solidarity of the human community and the Jewish community.” Yahweh has become “a metaphoric reference to our common life.”

United Presbyterian and Roman Catholic foreign missions agencies will unite to produce “NEW,” a three-times-a-year record with accompanying printed matter on ecumenical topics. This month’s first issue deals with military de-escalation and Viet Nam.

Latin America Mission plans a “rapid expansion” of its ministry to high school and university students, with Juan M. Isais of Mexico City as acting director.

The Czechoslovakia—based Christian Peace Conference plans to negotiate with the World Council of Churches to organize an interchurch convention on peaceful settlement of the Viet Nam war.

The American Jewish Congress reports that the new year began with thirty-two lawsuits on religious liberty and church-state separation pending in seventeen states. Half of them deal with public aid to religious schools.

A united seminary under discussion for Kinshasa, the Congo, would involve a wide assortment of churches including the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Evangelical Covenant, American Baptist, Mennonite, Methodist, and Presbyterian.

The Des Moines, Iowa, Council of Churches will pioneer with a non-profit corporation to build an urban-renewal housing project for 250 to 300 low- and middle-income families. Cost is estimated at $4 million.

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A National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom has been formed to raise funds for a U. S. Supreme Court review of a Kansas conviction of LeRoy Garber, who sent his daughter to a rural, non-accredited Amish school in violation of state law. Chairman is the Rev. William Lindholm, a Lutheran of East Tawas, Michigan.

More than one-third of the undergraduates at the University of Rochester, New York, petitioned the administration for more courses in religion for the spring semester. Three will be added.

Two students at Baylor, the world’s largest Baptist university, are organizing a computerized “Date-Mate” bureau, with help from a sociology teacher. Students pay $2 to file a questionnaire.

They Say

“We have every right to discuss the question of ecclesiastical celibacy and to ask ourselves whether or not this institution, as it exists in the Church in the West, should be reconsidered.… There are some returns to the past which are not infidelities, and the Church herself is today more understanding and more concerned to correct false choices.”—Emile Cardinal Leger, in a pastoral letter to Montreal priests.


IVAN LEE HOLT, 81, Methodist bishop who was the first president of the World Methodist Council and also president of the Federal (now National) Council of Churches; in Atlanta.

SAMUEL D. RUSSELL, 50, associate executive secretary of the Southern Baptists’ Kansas convention; in Wichita, when his car collided with a freight train as he was on his way home from work.

THOMAS TIPLADY, 85, British clergyman who wrote 200 hymns and got several into American and Canadian collections but none into the Church of England hymnal; in London.

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